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For Earl Thomas, Eliminating Big Plays Key To Slowing Down Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes

September 18, 2019
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Earl Thomas wasn't in Baltimore last year, but like the rest of the team, he has watched tape of the Kansas City Chiefs' 27-24 overtime win against the Ravens last season.

He has seen the no-look pass from quarterback Patrick Mahomes to receiver Demarcus Robinson, he has seen the throws to All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce, and of course he has seen the 4th-and-9 heave from Mahomes to receiver Tyreek Hill that set up the game-tying score --which came on another fourth-down throw. 

Now as the All-Pro safety prepares for his first matchup against Mahomes, the league's reigning Most Valuable Player, Thomas has a plan.

"I think it comes down to personnel, and luckily the Ravens have me playing free safety," Thomas said before practice Sept. 18. "I plan on eliminating all the big plays."

Through two games this season, Mahomes has completed 55 of 77 passes for a league-best 821 yards, with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating of 136.3 ranks third in the league; Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is first at 145.2.

But Thomas -- who was sidelined by a broken leg last year when the Seattle Seahawks handed the Chiefs a 38-31 loss -- said he is ready for "some exotic stuff" from Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and Mahomes.

"The thing is once he scrambles, he's looking across the field, down the field, and he's not scared to make those type of throws," Thomas said. "Most quarterbacks won't try that."

In the Chiefs' overtime win against the Ravens last year -- to date Jackson's only regular-season loss as a starting quarterback -- Mahomes went 35-for-53 for 377 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. 

The Chiefs have scored 26 points or more in 23 straight regular-season games, an NFL record. 

The Chiefs will be without receiver Tyreek Hill, who suffered a shoulder injury in the Chiefs' Week 1 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Hill had eight catches for 139 yards against the Ravens last year, including that critical fourth-down, 49-yard grab late in the fourth quarter.

In his absence, Sammy Watkins has a team-high 15 catches for 247 yards and three touchdowns, and Kelce has 10 catches for 195 yards. Robinson has seven catches for 172 yards, a league-best 24.6-yard average.

Given the firepower of Mahomes and the Chiefs, the Ravens know they need to tighten up a defense that yielded 349 passing yards last week to Arizona Cardinals rookie Kyler Murray and must do so without two of their top defensive backs. Top slot cornerback Tavon Young (neck) is out for the season, and Jimmy Smith (knee) is expected to miss his second straight game with a knee injury. 

That puts more pressure on the rest of the secondary, including veteran Brandon Carr, who said he too, has rewatched the heave to Hill on tape and, "It doesn't sit well with you."

Carr said the key when facing Mahomes and the Chiefs will be "100 percent communication, guys finishing the play. You can never take a down off with these guys."


ANDREWS, RICARD AMONG FIVE ABSENCES: Tight end Mark Andrews and fullback/defensive lineman Patrick Ricard were absent from the Ravens' Sept. 18 workout, as were cornerback Jimmy Smith, safety Brynden Trawick and safety Earl Thomas.

Smith is expected to miss his second straight game with a knee injury, and Trawick injured his left arm in the Week 2 win against Arizona. Thomas met with the media before practice Sept. 18 and was likely getting a veteran day off.

Andrews missed one practice last week but then played two days later and made eight catches for 112 yards against the Cardinals, so his absence could be precautionary. 

CHIEFS LOSE LEFT TACKLE: The Chiefs will be without Pro Bowl left tackle Eric Fisher against the Ravens Sept. 22, as the former No. 1 overall pick will have groin surgery, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid announced. Fisher will be replaced by Cam Erving, who took over for Fisher early in the Chiefs' Week 2 game against the Oakland Raiders.

With Fisher sidelined, the Chiefs backup at left tackle is former Raven Greg Senat, who was cut by the Ravens last week to make room for cornerback Maurice Canady on the 53-man roster. Senat was then claimed via waivers by the Chiefs. 

RAVENS SHUFFLE PRACTICE SQUAD: The Ravens have re-signed tight end Cole Herdman to their practice squad and also added guard Parker Ehinger. They had one practice squad spot available after promoting cornerback Canady to the active roster, and added Herdman after moving practice squad running back Mark Thompson to the practice squad/injured list.

Herdman, an undrafted rookie out of Purdue, had four catches for 24 yards in the preseason with the Ravens but was released in the final cutdown to the 53-player roster. Ehinger, a fourth-round draft pick of the Chiefs in 2016, started five games with the Chiefs across two years, then was traded to the Dallas Cowboys but missed the entire 2018 season with an injury. He spent time with the Jacksonville Jaguars early this year and then was with the Arizona Cardinals during training camp before being released.

Follow Bo on Twitter @bsmolka

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox